For some time now it’s been going on – the shift towards more agile, nimble companies that can change quickly and adapt to the ever-changing environment that we live in. Organizations that don’t manage to make the shift will slowly get weaker and die and the ones that manage to transform into a new culture and structure, more adapted to the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s participation economy, will survive and flourish.
The small and medium-sized companies can manage the shift quite straightforward, since they have fewer top-down structures that hinder people from realizing their potential. The problem starts when the companies get bigger and more complex, with systems, processes, and structures that cannot easily be changed. You can try to change one department (often functional) of the company, but the concern remains in another and since all parts depend on each other, the brave department that initiated the change, will soon be forced to give up and return to the old structure, like a rubber ball.
But there is one functional department in most large organizations that can affect all the other parts at the same time: Central group HR. They control in most large companies:
- Leadership programs & development
- Change management
- Organizational development
- Employee engagement and retention
- People development & learning
- Reward strategy and bonus systems
- Talent acquisition
- Long-term workforce management
All the above areas cut through the whole organization and are the processes that can support or stop the change to a more agile future. And it all depends on HOW we work with these processes and programs. You can develop them in a way that will limit performance and engagement, OR you can choose another, more agile way of working with these areas, where you optimize performance and employee satisfaction.
It’s all about the people, the relationships, and the system in which the people live and work. If we can give the right prerequisites to people, they will take care of the rest.
If you want to learn more and hear from live experiences, please register to our event “From traditional to modern: The role of HR in Agile organizations“.
Where can HR start from?
Two main perspectives, on one side, focus on increasing agility on how the HR team works and revisit the HR best practices that have been crystallized over the years. But first of all HR folks need to start setting their mindset in the right direction.
Mindset as described by the book of Carol Dweck can be expressed as a continuum between fixed and growth. Each of us can practice applying a growth mindset in our approach to everyday life events and our social interactions. But how can we scale this shift in mindset for entire teams or, even, entire organizations?
Here is where Agile offers HR practitioners a framework of values and principles that we can use as guidelines to infuse the correct mindsets in the way HR teams (and others) work, in the decisions they make, and in the products they develop to serve the organization.
Agile People are curious and collaborate to create awesome value and innovative solutions that meet human needs (Engagement, Innovation, Curiosity)
This principle highlights how HR practices should be driven by co-creation and innovation rather than being developed in an airtight environment from what the rest of the organization is living and breathing. From the principle, we can derive three main values that should inform our behaviors and decision-making.
Agile People actively embrace diversity and inclusion to create communities where people feel safe and truly belong (Diversity, Safety, Belonging)
Psychological safety is a critical component in developing business agility and empowering people to make decisions. HR should focus on building these safe environments and provided a sense of belonging to the community in each member. Communities can be several within a single organization and should not be confused with the concept of teams.
Agile People connect deeply with individuals, businesses, and society to create a culture where human ability is nurtured, valued, and unleashed (Culture, Connection, Humanity, Focus on broader society)
HR should focus on creating human connections by architecting communication networks, designing organizations that go beyond functional departments. There should also be a connection between what individuals do in their work and value-added for the broader society, and people are able to express their true nature at work. The goal here is to eliminate constraints rather than building an ever-growing number of rules.
Agile People continuously pursue meaning and purpose in life to create a positive and significant impact in the world of work(Purpose, Meaning)**
Most organizations have a pretty clear vision and mission statements coming from the CXO room. Where HR can help more is to support all people to find their own purpose, so that they can find their meaning in working towards the company mission. Understanding what moves us, what are our basic desires and aligning our daily lives to them should be on the front page of every “culture book”.
Agile People actively seek opportunities to experiment and learn to adapt fast and thrive in a changing environment (Adaptability, Experimentation)
Innovation starts from “trial and error” in a safe and controlled environment. Beyond establishing a culture of psychological safety, HR is responsible for building structures, processes, and space for people to experiment with new things as individuals or teams. Most traditional HR practices are actually envisioned to achieve the exact opposite outcome by focusing on scientific evidence that predicts human behavior. The same evidence-based approach should be used to create new practices that incentivize adaptable and experimental behaviors.
Agile People promote transparency across organizations and teams to enable trust, ownership, and self-organization (Transparency, Commitment, Accountability, Self-organization)
HR goal should be to create transparent policies and guidelines, rather than making them unnecessarily long and full of details that make the understanding nearly impossible. Similarly, HR should advise other teams on how to build transparent systems on what their commitments and goals are, where do their responsibilities start and end (read the next principle before jumping to conclusions!), and how decision-making can be distributed around the organization, all the way to the individual level.
Agile People harness the power of boundary spanning to facilitate proactive collaboration across organizational barriers(Cross-Functional, Collaboration, Communication, Learning)**
HR practices are architected with the idea that teams must collaborate closely to deliver value to the business, to the point that the concept itself of teams divided by function should be abandoned as fast as possible. The organizational structures the workflows of each team can have a dramatic impact (in positive or negative) on the way people communicate and collaborate. It is HR who has the knowledge and skills to build structures that promote learning across teams and facilitate effortless communication between all the different areas of the business.